AURORA, Colo (CBS4) – Colorado’s skyrocketing rental market is pushing more and more families into homelessness. Now Aurora is taking a new approach to helping families find a place to call home.

Tammy Calabrese is proud of her new 4-bedroom, 2-bath apartment. It comes complete with a washer and dryer.

Tammy Calabrese shows off the washer/dryer in her new rental. (Credit CBS)

Tammy Calabrese shows off the washer/dryer in her new rental. (Credit CBS)

“I spent $40 a week doing laundry at the laundromat, so this is heaven to me,” Calabrese told CBS4.

Heaven is having a permanent roof over her head for the first time in more than a year.

“Something I was desperately needing for me and my children… for a long time. Something we didn’t have,” she explained.

We first met Calabrese and her six sons in February. They were playing at a McDonald’s restaurant, one of the few fun things the family did while they were homeless and living in a shelter. Calabrese had qualified for a housing assistance voucher, but she couldn’t find a landlord to take it.

“I feel like I’m failing my kids,” she said at the time.

Shortly after the story with CBS4, Calabrese met Cathy Blair.

“She was my last hope,” Calabrese said of Blair.

Blair had recently been hired as a part-time contract worker at the Aurora@Home program, the city’s housing collaborative for families. Blair was the city’s first Landlord Recruitment Specialist. She was to use her marketing/sales background to sell landlords on working with Aurora@Home and the housing voucher program.

LINK: Aurora@Home

“It’s very frustrating to me when someone says, ‘Oh no, we won’t work with rental assistance,’ and we don’t even have a chance to help the family put their best foot forward,” Blair told CBS4.

It’s an attitude she runs into a lot. Blair said that eight landlords said no before she met Madison Thomas, a property manager who was willing to take a slightly lower rent and give Calabrese and her boys a chance.

“The benefit for us is that we know that we’re helping people get back on their feet,” Thomas said.

The benefit of having someone focus all their attention on finding housing for homeless families is speed. Blair can act quickly on new listings, meeting landlords and selling them on the families and the program. Blair argues that her clients take better care of their housing than regular renters because they’re so thankful to have a place to call home, and because case managers from the program are constantly checking in and working with the families to solve any problems that arise.

“I believe wholeheartedly in this program, and that we are changing lives in this community,” Blair said.

She certainly changed Calabrese’s life, helping her get a safe place that can stabilize her family.

“I just see nothing but good things happening for me and my children,” Calabrese added.

You can learn more about homelessness in the Denver metro area by checking out the Close To Home campaign. You can take the pledge to end homelessness in Colorado.

LINK: Close To Home

Libby Smith is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. If you have a story you’d like to tell CBS4 about, call 303-863-TIPS (8477) or visit the News Tips section.

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